Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar's speech, which will be included in Kannada textbooks from the academic year 2022-23, is about ideology, though it does not specifically refer to any one ideology. The Quint has accessed the chapter titled 'Nijavada Aadarsha Purusha Yaaragabeku?' (Who should be should a true role model?) and here is what it says.
According to KB Hedgewar, people shouldn't look up to humans as role models. Instead, they should find their role models in Tattva, meaning principles and ideology.
The Karnataka government has adopted the recommendations of the state textbook revision committee and has included Hedgewar's speech as one of the chapters in class X Kannada (first language) textbooks.
What Does the Speech Say?
The text "Who should be an ideal role model?" is taken from a Kannada book called RSS Sthapakara Chintanegalu–Prerana, meaning Founders' Thoughts for Inspiration, a compilation of KB Hedgewar's writing and speeches published by Ayodhya Publications.
Hedgewar, through this text asks his readers to find role models in ideology or principles, and not people. He says that if a person who is considered an ideal makes a mistake, then one must try and find another person who is likely to be perfect. However, he observes that in cases such as Krishna or even Rama, the person is often elevated to be god, further complicating people's perceptions towards being the "perfect being."
"We worship our flag considering it to be our teacher on the day of Gurupoornima. We do not worship any human. What is the proof for any individual to have achieved a great feat without any errors? Ideology alone is unchangeable and ultimate."KB Hedgewar, Who Should Be an Ideal Role Model?
The speech will now be the fifth chapter of the first language Kannada prose textbook, which is in the process of printing.
Textbook Committee, Government Defend Inclusion of Speech, Scholars Disagree
Defending the move in an opinion piece published by Kannada local daily Hosa Diganata, Head of the Textbook Revision Committee Rohith Chakrathirtha writes, "There is a whole list of scholars like Ram Swarup, Sita Ram Goel, Dharmapal, KB Hedgewar, MS Gowalkar, Dattopant Thengadi and VS Wakankar, who were in exile, while what Irfhan Habib and Romila Thapar wrote was being accepted as history for over 75 years. This is changing now."
In this scathing opinion against Marxist historians, Chakrathirtha tries to safeguard his recommendations from criticism and claims that the induction of Hedgewar's speech has irked leftist thinkers across the state.
Scholars, however, think otherwise. Speaking to The Quint, Dr Janaki Nair, a former professor of history in Jawaharlal Nehru University said, "I believe all textbooks need periodic revision to reflect changes in the practice of history..."
"This round of inclusions and exclusions is however ideologically and not pedagogically grounded. Although I see no reason why a text by Hedgewar should not be critically discussed, why has a translation been chosen over texts written in Kannada for a Kannada textbook? Clearly the choice is driven by reasons that are ideological in pitting 'our' heroes against 'their' heroes."Janaki Nair, Former Professor in JNU
On the contrary, Karnataka Primary and Secondary Education Minister BC Nagesh has claimed that the text was to instill critical thinking in students to follow a particular ideology and not take any individual as a role model, as they are prone to make mistakes.
Addressing the media, Minister BC Nagesh said, "KB Hedgewar had said that one has to take ideology and principles as his or her inspiration. He has spoken about the importance of society and the nation. What is wrong in this speech?"
Organisations such as All-India Democratic Students Organisation (AIDSO) and All-India Save Education Committee (AISEC) have expressed concern over alleged saffronisation of textbooks in the state.
The organisations have also alleged that the ruling BJP and RSS have been ideologically penetrating the press, cinema, music and now textbooks to suit their versions of history.
However, observing that the writing of history has mainly been unidimensional over the years, professor of history in Christ University, Dr SP Vagishwari told The Quint, "Rather than looking at what they (right-wing ideologues) are saying, as an academic I am interested more in understanding why a certain section of readers are now asserting their own versions of history."
Meanwhile, the textbook revision committee did drop several writers for reasons which have not yet been made public.
Who Are the Writers Dropped From the Syllabus?
Sources told The Quint that Mruga Mattu Sundari, a Kannada version of Beauty and the Beast, written by P Lankesh, a well-known writer and journalist who founded Lankesh Patrike has been dropped. His tabloid was one of the first media houses that gave space Dalit and women literature.
Three other texts, Yuddha by Sara Aboobacker, Vyaghra Kathe by AN Murthy Rao and Sukumara Swamy Kathe by the 10th century writer Shivakotyacharya have also been dropped.
There were also widespread reports of the government deciding to drop a chapter on Bhagat Singh by Marxist thinker G Ramakrishna. However, it was later clarified through a circular that the Karnataka government was not dropping the chapter on the 23-year-old freedom fighter.
Among the lessons that are newly included are Naanu Prasa Bitta Kathe by state poet Govinda Pai, Swadeshi Sutrada Sarala Habba by writer Shivananda Kalave, Sukanashana Upadesha, a text from Banabhatta's Kadambari translated into Kannada by Indologist Bannanje Govindacharya and Shrestha Bharathiya Chintanegalu by scholar Shatavadhani R Ganesh.
Speaking to The Quint, Rohith Chakrathirtha, head of the text revision committee said, "There is nothing political or ideological in (Hedgewar's) text we that have recommended. Hedgewar's speech is nothing but an advice that he is giving to the youngsters. We in the committee want to impart good education and instill critical thinking in students."